Solidarity? Rep. Tlaib detained during protest in Detroit, others arrested

It looks like Rep. Rashida Tlaib is following the Jane Fonda playbook on civil disobedience – encourage others to protest and watch them get hauled off to jail while she is briefly detained and released. She’s letting the little people – the ones she’s fighting for, allegedly – take the heat while she enjoys the headlines.

Protests were held at various airports Friday to voice complaints of low wages and a lack of health insurance benefits for the catering crews working for Delta Air Lines, as well as United Airlines and American Airlines. Tlaib was detained during a demonstration against Delta at Detroit Metro Airport as she sat in a road with eight other protesters. She and her little group of workers were blocking traffic while over 100 people protested at the McNamara Terminal departure level of the airport. Their signs read, “Delta: One job should be enough.”

Some first reports claimed Tlaib was arrested so a communications representative with Local 24 of Unite Here, a service workers’ union posted a clarification on Twitter. Tlaib was detained, not arrested. She “participated in solidarity”, you see.

Tlaib even used a line that comrade Fonda is making popular again with social justice warriors – they were “putting their bodies on the line”.

Tlaib said she was proud to stand with the workers “who are willing to put their bodies on the line” and rode with the workers in the van as officers transported them for processing, but was not arrested with others, union officials said.

“The airline catering workers are desperate for a better quality of life and put their bodies on the line in their fight against the exorbitant corporate greed by the airlines denying them of their right to a living wage and good healthcare,” Tlaib said in a statement.

“Working people in the kitchens at DTW and airports across the U.S. have been hurting for too long, but today we are saying no more. Today, we are calling on Delta Air Lines to say that if it wants to really prove that it cares about the working families more than it does its bottom line, than it will commit to ending poverty in the airline catering industry so one job is enough for all airline workers.”

This protest was held during the time that Delta Air Lines was distributing $1.6 billion in profit-sharing Friday to its employees. Protests were held at Delta hubs in Minneapolis and Seattle along with protests at United and American hubs in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Catering employees feel they should get a cut of the company’s profits, too.

“We’ve helped Delta earn its profits too,” Lonmea Whitfield of Detroit says in the union release. “Through participating in this day of action, I want to show Delta that catering workers like me also deserve to share in its success.” The 57-year-old has worked for Sky Chefs at Detroit Metropolitan Airport since 2015.

Near Dallas, more than a dozen airline catering workers and supporters sat outside American Airlines headquarters Thursday and Friday in a “hunger fast.”

Here’s the catch – catering employees are sub-contracters, not regular employees on the company’s payroll. The catering crews should be protesting at the offices of the contracting company who finds the employees for the airlines. The airlines pay the contracter, not the employees directly. The whole reason that companies use contract employees is to save money, to boost their bottom line. In other words, the protesters are barking up the wrong tree.

Another member of The Squad sisters, Rep. Ilhan Omar, protested in Minneapolis. Jane Sanders was in Minneapolis, too.

Bernie Sanders was down with the protesters at San Francisco International Airport.

I’ll ask this question as I end here: Does anyone fly with a specific airline because the food is good? Given a choice, don’t most people consider their treatment and pricing from the airlines first? I guess sitting in a road outside of a contracter’s office blocking Friday afternoon traffic isn’t as dramatic as doing it at an airport.